Time Warp Rotary: 1979 Mazda RX-7

To me, one of the clearest indications that a car is a survivor is if its original exterior graphics and paint are both still in sound condition. Even cars that are loved usually lose the factory stickers that it left the dealership with three decades ago, so to find one with those oh-so-cool period decals still attached is quite a find. This 1979 Mazda RX-7 is just such an unmolested example with original paint and those somewhat cheesy exterior adornments still intact, and if you want to own one that’s absolutely period correct, this rotary-powered coupe is worth a look here on Facebook Marketplace with an asking price of $10,000 or best offer.

Despite being located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, this RX-7 has survived incredibly well and the seller notes there is hardly any rust in the car, save for a few spots of surface rust. The first-generation RX-7 is one of those cars that many owners seemed to put away carefully once they stopped using them, as we’ve featured numerous cars over the years that certainly weren’t put away as future collectibles but rather just parked carefully in the garage and left alone. The RX-7 here is described as a barn find with original paint and interior, and an engine that still runs but will need a proper gas tank cleaning before it’s used for an extended period.

It’s surprising values haven’t taken off more aggressively for these vintage coupes, as it was both a watershed car for Mazda and the entire cadre of performance vehicles. Clever engineering, great styling, decent performance, and a healthy aftermarket are usually the hallmarks of a collector car, and while the Mazda has those features in spades, it’s still very attainable at the moment. The interior of this example is extremely nice for being a barn find, with clean carpets, center console, and door panels, and just a split in the driver’s seat for upholstery-related flaws. The dash is cracked, which isn’t a surprise, but you should be able to find a well used pad among any number of RX-7 owners groups. The factory radio remains, too.

I love pictures like these, as it’s usually impossible to find a forgotten car with all of the original sales and manufacturer literature still intact. The seller notes mileage as being a hair over 22,000, but there’s really no way to know if that’s actual unless the paper trail (registration documents, title, inspections, etc.) supports it. The paintwork and graphics could certainly be that of a neglected example with under 30,000 miles, but the condition of the dash is a little worse than I’d expect. Engine bay photos reveal a clean under-hood compartment, so there’s evidence to support it being a low-mileage specimen in both directions. What do you think – is the sub-30,000 odometer reading accurate?

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Comments

  1. MattR Member

    I can’t make a call on the milage, but what doesn’t give me confidence is how the hood is popped like that in every photo. Whenever I see an ad with that, it’s a red flag. That aside, there is a lot to like here overall.

    I am just a big fan of RX-7’s having grown up with a GSL in the family. In part of my dream garage, I would have a RX-7 GSL-SE, a Bertone X1/9 and ’67 MGB to satisfy my “big guy in a small car” fetish my wife says I have. :)

    Like 5
  2. Rick

    Nnnnyaaaa…. that odometer’s rolled at least once. Too much crud in the engine compartment for those few miles, nevermind the cracked dash.

    Like 2
  3. Jc

    What about the torn driver’s seat and shift boot with rips…122k

    Like 2
  4. Daniel Wright

    What is the white crusty stuff between the air cleaner and the passenger shock tower?

  5. JRHaelig

    I think the white crud is wrap or patch on the exhaust.

    These had an incredibly hot exhaust system, using a “thermal reactor” if I remember the wording correctly instead of a catalytic converter.

    Mine cooked through and had flames shooting out until it reached full operating temp.

    Nifty cars. Little tires. 13 inch I think.
    Big carburetor that melted when introduced to gasahol….. as I did in 1982.

    Like 2
    • Robbie R.

      I bought a new one in March ‘79. On a cool morning, the neighbors could hear me coming up the street, bang bang bang.. backfiring on every shift!

  6. Phlathead Phil

    My ex had one of these pieces of junk.

    It backfired like crazy and ALWAYS stalled out. We traded it for a ‘79 turbo V-6 Buick Regal.

    Man was that Regal a Hot-Rod. I could roll 100 mph all day long, or until the beer ran out!

    Like 3
    • SRF

      Mine did too until I checked the distributor . Went to order a new one. The nice parts man asked If I needed the whole thing for $150 or just the point mounting plate . They had a manufactoring problem with some .

      Like 1
  7. Stephen Miklos

    I just had a flash back seeing this RX-7. In NYC we had the international car show at the New York coliseum Columbus circle in Manhattan 1979..Working for a Mazda dealership we had cars at that show. A yellow RX-7 was delivered on a trailer and I drove it into the building to park it next to the other Mazdas. We also had Datsuns aka Nissan’s. RX-7 was fun to drive. I missed out driving that back to the dealership in Great Neck L.I. I drove a yellow with orange strips GLC rear wheel drive. With a stick. That was a fun car to drive also. This RX-7 for sale is hard to say it has 22,000 miles on it. The seats are in great shape but the dash is cracked . Why?? The engine looks good for the age and miles. The engine would of had problems if it ran the clock over. It comes down to buyer beware. 😄 Happy Thanksgiving everyone.🦃

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      (apparently I am “the great defender of the Rotary” on Barnfinds)
      Therefore, I will beg to differ that the engine would have issues if “run over the clock”. Especially since we are talking about the 12A engine. 150k miles between rebuilds is an accepted conservative number in stock trim. I am running one now that is still very strong at 133k miles. I drove a 12A once that had 230k miles, and was still reasonable. Keep in mind that the oil does not really get dirty, but does need to be changed (about half as often as a piston engine). Due to oil injection metering you would need to add about a half quart every 1000 miles. There is a low oil level sensor (buzzer) to remind you of this if you neglect. Have a great Thanksgiving, stay safe.

      Like 5
  8. David

    Love these. Very original but I’m highly skeptical of the mileage claim based on the interior alone and the odometer numbers are all crooked. They typically don’t look that way unless they’ve been rolled back. I agree that these should be worth more than they currently sell for si I suspect his asking price is optimistic.

    Like 3
  9. Horse Radish

    Cars in the late 70ies and 80ies were built to last and a 122k car would not look much worse than a 22k car.
    I think the giveaway is the torn driver’s seat. It’s a stress rip from getting in and out too many times. Too much wear for 22k

  10. JMB#7

    My opinion… They kept it out of the salt regardless of if it is 22k miles or 122k miles. The dashboard pad indicates that it was parked in the sun, with major cracking almost out of character. Other plastic items, window cranks fading, and seat & A-pillar covers shrinking and cracking are typical and have more to do with sun exposure and age than miles. The main reason I would venture a guess that it is 122k miles is the poor alignment of odometer digits. It is only semi-clean under the hood (it has been cleaned). Rotaries tend to stay clean under the hood, (absence of leaking valve covers, and any blow-by goes into the next chamber, not the so-called “eccentric case”).
    Compared to my 1982 RX-7 which has 133k miles??? Rust showed up on mine in the following order. Bottom of doors due to shrunken weather stripping, and cracked Ziebart holding in the salt & moisture. Rocker panels just ahead of rear wheels. Recently the upper lip above rear wheel arches. On the other hand, mine starts, runs, drives, enjoys shifts at redline, wheel spin in multiple gears, handles perfectly neutral, gets around 22 mpg, and has cost very little to properly maintain. Tokico HP (blue) shocks work great on these. I prefer my (big) 14″ Enkei 2- piece wheels (looks like the Enkei92), but it is cool that this has the 13″ factory alloys.
    The $10k price is high, especially if it is not ready to run.
    On the flipside, someone should make a reasonable offer to get a rust-free chassis. I hope it goes to a good home that appreciates the magic of the rotary.

    Like 2
  11. Racer-X

    My current project is a 200k mile ’82 RX7 purchased from the original owner. These are really fun cars that get attention everywhere now.
    The price is depressed substantially because 12A rotary parts are nearly non existent and command a premium for good used.

    Like 2
  12. JMB#7

    Are you staying with the 12A, or going to a 13B? To me, the only reason would be for the availability of parts, but I think that most general rebuild parts are still plentiful. Mine is also a 1982. Technically I am the third owner, but my brother was the second owner. I am torn between keeping things original, compared to doing more improvements. As a friend would say “work will show the way”, but in this case, “money & work will show the way”.

    Like 2
    • Racer-X

      Keeping 12A. This will be a low cost rebuild / restoration for a driver rather then a total restoration. Paint, upholstery, engine o rings. Prior female owner babied it and included entire 1inch thick maintenance history. I’ve already got a couple hot rods. I’m pretty sure the 12a has a bad oil control seal but food spec and rotors.

      Like 1

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